HENRY TAYLOR: THE ART OF EMPATHY
5 March 2018
Speaking to a standing room-only crowd at the Society for Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (SCA), the critically renowned Henry Taylor jocularly reminisced about the various subjects of his paintings.
Chuckling slightly when his slideshow of works brought up a complex layered image of a man resting in a chair with his head leaning slightly backward, Taylor noted, “I painted this one when my brother came over to my house and fell asleep in my chair.” True to his words, the painting evokes a warm sense of the familiar in the way only Taylor can achieve; slight abstractions of shapes so common and close draped in warm darker tones which seemingly depict the universal in the specific.
Taylor advanced the slide show to reveal stark black figures cloaked in white, assembled in a group around the rough shape of a car. He quickly clicked to the next image, a photograph of what appeared to be the same scene. Shifting between the two images, Taylor commented on how working from photographs can take so much longer than working from live models, “A painting that would take me two hours with a live model might take me ten with a photograph, and I’ll likely still be unhappy with the result.”
As one might guess, Taylor is a deeply empathetic man whose concern for his fellow humans is palpable in both his speech and his work. In a press release for his show at Carlos/Ishikawa, London, Taylor said that he tries to paint everyone, “I try to capture the moment I am with someone who could be my friend, a neighbor, a celebrity, or a homeless person.”[ii]
Remarkably, Taylor’s strokes have found a way to convey his deep empathy in an immediately aesthetic fashion. His unique style and profoundly evocative paintings have led to a mid-career retrospective at MoMA PS1, as well as many to solo and group shows across the world [iii], including participating in last year’s Whitney Biennial. After decades of practicing as an artist, Taylor is, at long last, receiving his due.
The Society for Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (SCA) was founded in 1940 with the intention of promoting a deeper understanding of the art that defines our expanding culture and world. Monthly programs such as this event offer aesthetically minded individuals like those of 1000M the opportunity to hear artists from across the world discuss their work. Members of the SCA also participate in the process of acquiring new work for the Art Institute. More information on membership levels and SCA as an organization may be found here.